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Bein Hametzarim, between the straits

R. Steven Bernstein

July 2016

Zechariah chapter 8 lists the minor fasts of Israel. They are the fast of the 4th month, the fast of the 5th month, the fast of the 7th month, and the fast of the 10th month. The 4th month of the year is Tammuz, and the fast of Tammuz, is held on the 17th. The fast of the 17th of Tammuz, is a commemoration and a recollection of many sad events in the history of the Jewish people, including, the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem during the Babylonian siege and the breaking of the tablets of the 10 words by Moses. The fast of the 5th month, Av, is the 9th day of the month, or, in Hebrew, Tisha B’Av. There are exactly 3 weeks between the fast of the 4th month and the fast of the 5th month. This period of time is referred to as “the 3 weeks,” or, “between the Straits.”

This year, the 17th of Tammuz falls on a Shabbat, July 23. The only time we fast on a Shabbat is Yom Kippur, consequently, the fastest postponed for a day and falls on Sunday, July 24. Tisha b’Av, then, also falls on a Shabbat and is thereby postponed for a day. So, the 3 weeks are adjusted accordingly. The term “between the Straits” comes from Lamentations 1.3 which states, “All (Tziyon’s) pursuers overtook her between the Straits.” This is a period of mourning for all Israel, commemorated and remembered regarding the time immediately before the destruction of both Temples as Israel’s enemies overtook her.

During these 3 weeks we practice a period of semi-mourning. We do not perform weddings, we do not get our hair cut, and we try to avoid dangerous situations. Sometimes it is difficult to relate these occurrences in antiquity to our current modern day situation. After all, the temple was destroyed 2000 years ago, and Moses destroyed the tablets 1000 years before that. Why should we be mourning events that took place so long ago, and have such little relevance to us today?

In fact, these events in antiquity are extremely relevant to us in that they are representative of all of the trials and tribulations that the Jewish people have undergone throughout history. Salvation (Yeshua) comes through Israel; as Yeshua suffered and died and then was resurrected, so Israel suffers and dies and will be resurrected. Mourning the suffering and dying of Israel throughout history is representative of mourning the suffering and dying of our master Yeshua. And, the suffering and dying of Yeshua the Messiah is mirrored by the suffering and dying of all Israel throughout history. Consequently, it is important that we engage in this mourning process as a memorial to the travails of our Messiah Yeshua and to the travails of our people, Israel.

Zechariah chapter 8 tells us that the fasts of the 4th month and 5th month will become times of joy. They are not yet times of joy, and so, we should mourn. If we do not mourn now, how will we see the contrast when these times become times of joy with the return of our Messiah? Yeshua himself participated in the mourning of these fasts and the 3 weeks between them. So, let us remember the time that our Messiah and our people were overtaken “between the Straits.”

Sat, July 24 2021 15 Av 5781